What to do with dying shopping malls

Fifty years after it was first conceptualized, the American shopping mall is dying off. What was once a convenient amenity for suburbanites has been met with the realization that it is neither sustainable nor “hip.” For New Urbanists, however, the shopping mall can be seen as an investment opportunity.

In a recent article in “Sustainable Industries,” Charles Redell notes that eager developers have taken advantage of the dying model and transformed it into something more viable in today’s climate: “lifestyle centers”—mixed-used communities centered in urban environments. By transforming the malls and the areas around them into neighborhoods that maximize the efficiency of the grounds, promoting walkability while reducing the presence of asphalt, some of America’s oldest shopping centers have been able to create positive capital growth, even in today’s volatile economy.

The article quotes CNU President/CEO John Norquist, who discusses the relevance of location efficiency in sustainable development. It also features Ellen Dunham-Jones, who authored “Retrofitting Suburbia” and will be speaking at CNU 17 in a session of the same name.

Photo: The Northgate Mall in Seattle has invested in improvements, and remains a surviving center for commerce today.

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